To read the previous installments of Group Therapy, click here.
Randy and Ted met Julie at her apartment. They each prepared for a long night of sitting in Julie’s car, waiting for Pat to emerge from his apartment so they could spy on his nighttime activities.
Randy brought a handheld Sudoku game, a laptop, and a thermos full of latte.
Julie brought binoculars, a notebook, and two sugar-free Red Bulls.
Ted brought a four pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups, a bag of Doritos, an 84-ounce Dr. Pepper, and an eighth of special weed he had been saving for a special occasion, such as nighttime.
They loaded into the car about 20 minutes before sundown and headed for Pat’s address. Once there, Julie eased the car into a corner lot across the street from Pat’s entryway.
As dusk gave way to darkness Julie scanned the windows of the building, an upscale brownstone with perhaps 4 apartments in it. “How do you know which one is his?” asked Randy.
“I don’t,” said Julie, without taking the binoculars away from her eyes.
“Then what are you looking at?” asked Ted, from the back seat.
Julie shrugged her shoulders as she finished scanning the fourth floor windows and moved down a level to three. “Anything. Hopefully some people doing something interesting, maybe having sex or something.”
“Julie!” gasped Randy. “That’s voyeurism. I think that’s wrong.”
Suddenly Julie leaned forward and whispered, “Oh! What are they doing? That’s so nasty.”
Ted and Randy both reached for the binoculars with cries of “What?” and “Let me see!” but Julie pulled the binoculars away and sneered. “Yeah, thought so. Too bad there’s nothing to see yet.”
Ted sank back into his seat. “For the record, I have no problem with voyeurism, so long as we actually see something interesting.” Randy shrugged and said, “I guess it’s not really voyeurism if people leave their windows open.”
An hour passed with no sign of Pat. During that time, Julie checked every window in her sightlines and periodically took notes. Randy studied his Sudoku book intently. Every so often she shook his head violently and told himself to focus. Ted took three pulls from his one-hitter, ate two of the peanut butter cups, and finally spoke. “Where the fuck is he? I thought his schedule was supposed to be all compressed and shit because he can only go out at night. Time’s a wastin’, Count Chocula.”
Ten more minutes passed before Julie lowered the binoculars for the first time. “I’m bored. Let’s talk about something.”
Randy said, “Oh, let me guess. I bet you want to talk about sex.”
Julie popped open a Red Bull and gave Randy a dirty look. “You know, maybe I do have a problem with sexual addiction, but I’m more than just a vagina and tits and mouth and asshole and hands and feet. I am capable of carrying on a conversation that isn’t overtly about sex. And at least I’ve never appeared in a porn movie, Mr. Big Cock Randy Mountain.”
Ted leaned forward. “Are you 100% sure about that?”
Julie thought for a moment and said, “I don’t think home videos, or videos that people take of you that you aren’t completely aware of, should count.” Ted and Randy shrugged. Julie turned around sideways to better face both Randy and Ted. “So, Ted, you never told us what you do for a living.”
“I’m an attorney, a junior partner at Strickland, Stanfield, Duke and Lane.” Julie was impressed. Strickland, Stanfield, Duke and Lane was one of the real heavyweight law firms in town.
Randy took a swig of latte. “What kind of things do you deal with in a job like that?”
Ted leaned back and rested his head so he could watch the clouds, silver and backlit by the moon, pass by. “It depends. I’ve handled a variety of different issues, but my specialty is in corporate progress chart law.”
“Come again?” asked Julie.
Ted continued, grinning. “It used to be called ‘red, green, yellow’ law. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’m one of the leading attorneys on the matter in the country. The basic principle is that the government can prosecute companies on the basis of corporate documents that use a ‘red, green, yellow’ methodology to chart projects.”
“Say what now?” asked Randy.
Ted pointed to his Dr. Pepper. “Let’s say the makers of Dr. Pepper had internal studies investigating whether their product caused cancer. Maybe they find out it doesn’t cause colon cancer or brain cancer, and are pretty sure it doesn’t cause breast cancer. In the ‘red, green, yellow’ methodology, colon and brain cancers would get a green in the project chart, as in, no problem. Breast cancer might get a yellow. But if they found out Dr. Pepper might cause eye cancer, it would get a red.”
“So?” asked Julie.
“So,” Ted continued, “if Dr. Pepper goes to market and starts causing eye cancer, and the government or consumers somehow find those internal documents and sees a big red mark next to ‘eye cancer’, Dr. Pepper is fucked. It shows they knew they had an issue.”
Julie sneered. “So, what, you tell them to use ‘blue, purple, and orange’ instead?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what we told them to do. But then plaintiffs caught on and figured out that blue meant red, and purple meant yellow, and so on. After that we advised companies to start using a ‘thumbs’ methodology. Not ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’, of course, as that would be a binary and quite obvious indicator of known problems. Instead, we advised them to use a scale of between four thumb and 13 thumb symbols.”
Randy shook his head in disbelief. “Is four thumbs the best, or is 13 thumbs the best?”
“Neither,” said Ted. “It wasn’t a sequential scale, which was the beauty of it. Like, 11 thumbs actually meant red, and 6 was yellow, and 8 was green. The other thumb numbers were just used as decoys. But then a company had a whistleblower reveal the secret code for which number of thumbs meant what, so we’re switching to a new plan, which involves some Esperonto and Gregg shorthand.”
Five minutes passed as Julie and Randy wondered what it was Ted really did. Finally Ted leaned forward and said, “I think we should all get high.”
Julie finished off her first Red Bull and said, “Sure.”
Randy looked uncomfortable. “I’ve never really taken drugs.”
“No problem”, said Ted. “But I think you’ll find it more helpful than that therapy you’ve been going to.”
Randy said, “I’m not sure it’s a good idea. The people at gay therapy said taking drugs makes people be gay sometimes.”
“Suit yourself,” said Ted. As he said that he motioned to Julie to roll the windows up, which locked in all of the smoke. After five minutes, Randy was every bit as stoned as Ted and Julie. Nobody spoke for several minutes as they watched traffic roll by.
Eventually Ted leaned his head back to resume his cloud watching and said, “So, Randy, how about you? What do you do?”
Randy took a deep breath and poured himself a latte. “Well, I’m a student.”
Julie said “Oh, cool. Where are you taking classes?”
“I take them at home. I’m home schooling.”
Julie nodded and said “Oh, cool” again, but this time her voice was noticeably higher, because middle-aged men didn’t typically go to home school, particularly men sitting in her front seat. “What are you studying to be?”
Just then, Ted hushed the car and pointed across the street. Pat was standing on the corner in front of the brownstone. He was wearing a cloak and top hat, and carried a fancy walking stick with a polished silver knob that gleamed in the headlights of the passing cars. Everybody leaned forward to get a better look while Julie focused the binoculars.
Randy whispered, “Look at that fancy walking stick. That looks very familiar. Where have I seen that before?”
“What’s with the getup?” asked Ted. “He looks like fuckin’ Willy Wonka over there.”
“Wrong!” said Julie. “He looks like a vampire.”
“Oh, Mr. Peanut!” cried Randy. “Mr. Peanut carries a fancy walking stick like that.”
“Wrong again!” said Julie. She spun back around to face Randy and Ted. “It may surprise you to know that I’ve done my homework on this and I happen to know what I’m talking about. You know, maybe I do have a problem with sexual addiction, but I’m more than just a vagina and tits and mouth and asshole and hands and feet. I am capable…”
“There he goes!” screamed Randy. Pat was getting into a large black Cadillac Escalade that had pulled up to the curb. As it pulled into traffic it passed right in front of the car, but the Escalade had tinted windows that prevented any look at Pat or the other occupants inside. Most worrisome was the rapid pace at which the Escalade was moving away from them.
“Step on it!” screamed Randy.
But Julie was frozen, then confused. “I…I’m supposed to follow which car, now? Do we have to pay parking?”
“Pay parking!?”, shrieked Randy. “You shouldn’t have taken all those drugs! There’s no parking to pay here! We have to get after Pat. I’ll drive.” Randy opened his door and stepped out, but his knees immediately buckled and he fell to the ground. He tried to say, “Oh, Jesus! My legs are asleep. I can’t stand up!”, but his speech was slurring more with each word. He tried to get up again, and again immediately folded up once he put weight on his leg.
“I’ll drive”, said Ted. “Julie, help get Randy back in the car. Hurry!”
Julie objected, even while she was doing exactly what Ted told her to do. “But how can you drive, Ted? None of us should drive. And we’ll never catch them now.”
“Trust me!” yelled Ted. That was all he said, and that’s what Julie and Randy did as they fell into the back seat, not getting the door shut until they had already sped onto the street and after the Escalade, its tail lights a red blur in the distance.